In the past few months I have become increasingly interested in Christian meditation, not as some flavor-of-the-month passing fad, but as THE way out of the mess in which I have always found myself — the mess that is my own ceaseless thoughts.
Be they thoughts of good or of ill, I am stuck in a web of them, and am under the illusion that I AM what I think. But that is not so. If I am my thoughts, then when I think things are bad, I must believe it. When I think things are great, I must believe it, even if that thought doesn’t conform to reality. But clearly I do not have to believe what I think. There is part of me beneath my thinking self that evaluates what I think and decides whether or not it should be acted upon. Underneath all of these thoughts that are constantly running in the background, and even underneath that part of me that evaluates them, I am simply consciousness.
Meditation is a discipline that helps us learn to still the din of constant thought, and just BE. I know, sounds so Eastern, but where Eastern religions have gone right, we should credit them. This is one of those cases. So we enter into meditation and what we immediately find is that we cannot meditate. We cannot still our minds. We cannot NOT think. At least not right away. So we keep at it. Then we begin to wonder why we are doing it. The rather crass answer I have found that works well for me is that we keep at it because our ego needs a b-slap.
It is ego that is behind our relentless striving, our constant comparison of ourselves with others, even much of our desire to be godly. Ego is the thing that is always plotting for itself and wanting to look good and feel good, and coming up with endless schemes to make that happen. Ego needs to be told to get in the corner – to sit down and shut up – that it does not get to rule every second of the day. Meditation accomplishes exactly that. When the thoughts come, we notice them, dismiss them, and keep saying our word (whatever word you have chosen for your meditation). We do not expect anything to happen, and when something does happen, we ignore it. All of that is ego – the expectations, elation over expectations fulfilled, and disappointment over expectations that are not fulfilled.
There is something about the violence of calling meditation the ego b-slap that appeals to me, perhaps because Jesus used violent imagery when he spoke of “dying to self.” At any rate, I believe I have found not a tangent, but the thing that is going to ultimately free me from the incessant thinking that has driven me half-crazy most of my life.